2004 Chrysler Pacifica
This 2004 review is representative of model years 2004 to 2008.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Chrysler once was among the top luxury cars, along with Cadillac and Lincoln, but that was decades ago. The early 2004 Chrysler Pacifica crossover vehicle should help this brand regain some of its lost glory.
Chrysler built absolutely fabulous cars with advanced engineering in the 1930s, and America's first mass-produced 300-horsepower car was the luxurious 1955 Chrysler C-300 coupe with its powerful "HEMI" V8 and leather upholstery. But the brand's luxury appeal began slipping in the late 1950s and was gone by the early 1970s—partly because Chrysler couldn't keep up with larger, more affluent American rivals.
Making matters worse was the arrival of popular European and Japanese luxury models in the 1980s and 1990s.
DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler unit is beginning to tackle the luxury—or "premium"—market again with creative American designers and technical assistance from the Mercedes operation.
Mix of Vehicles
The sleekly styled Pacifica is very wide and taller than a car, but not as high as most sport utes. It's about as long as a Chrysler Town & Country minivan, at 198.9 inches, and thus should fit in most garages.
Auto analyst Ray Windecker, of Michigan's American Autodatum, said the Pacifica should attract new, affluent customers to the Chrysler nameplate, but calls it "just another entry in the crossover market. It's a necessary defensive move in that market, which contains upscale vehicles with third-row seats, such as the Acura MDX and Buick Rendezvous."
Car-like Ride and Handling
Doors have high window sills designed to—as Chrysler puts it—impart a feeling of security to occupants. However, they may make some occupants feel a little confined because the sills don't allow large glass areas. Still, the view is higher than from a car—although lower than from a sport utility.
Also optional is a navigation system with a screen in the speedometer face—and nearby controls. While that setup is handy for a driver, it virtually precludes passenger input when navigating.
Other new upscale Chrysler vehicles are this year's Crossfire sports coupe, which has a Mercedes engine and transmission, and next year's 300C HEMI sedan. It'll have a V8 with hemispherical ("hemi") combustion chambers, just like the legendary Chrysler HEMI V8.
As for the Pacifica, it shares a rear suspension design with the higher-line Mercedes E-Class cars.
The Pacifica is powered by a 3.5-liter 250-horsepower V6 from the Chrysler 300M flagship sedan. While noisy when pushed, it provides decent acceleration with a driver and passenger.
However, the Pacifica weighs 4,482-4,625 pounds, so a stronger engine would be appreciated when it contains a load of passengers and cargo—or when driven in hilly terrain. The potent HEMI V8 may be offered for the Pacifica in 2005.
A 5- or 6-speed automatic transmission would help acceleration, but only a 4-speed automatic is offered. It upshifts at 73 mph during a 65-75 mph passing maneuver, instead of holding passing gear until 75 is reached. Still, the Pacifica is a relaxed cruiser, loafing at 2200 rpm at 65 mph.
Mediocre Fuel Economy
Steering is reasonably quick, and handling is very good—thanks to a wide stance and such items as big tires on 17-inch wheels, along with a "performance suspension" with that Mercedes-style rear design.
The Pacifica looks plenty sleek, but lacks the performance of, say, the new but less practical Infiniti FX45. But this Chrysler easily soaks up road irregularities and provides a supremely comfortable ride. Braking is good, with decent pedal feel.
Wide-opening doors with large handles and a low floor make it easy to enter and leave the quiet interior. Second-row seats can be fairly easily flipped forward to allow entry to the third split bench seat. But even nimble folks will find it challenging to reach the third seat, which provides decent room for two medium-size adults.
However, the ignition switch is conveniently located on the dashboard. Nicely designed Mercedes-style power seat controls are easily operated on the front doors, and rear side windows lower all the way.
The cargo hatch has two large indented areas inside to help yank it down without getting hands dirty on outside sheet metal. But, after third-row seatbacks are pushed forward to enlarge the cargo area, long arms and a body stretch are needed to return them to their upright position from the rear of the Pacifica.
It appears that Chrysler is in the right lane with the Pacifica. It's an easygoing, accomplished crossover with sufficient luxury to satisfy upscale vehicle owners who want something different with a good dose of practicality.